Relapsing fever group borrelia in southern California rodents

Nathan C. Nieto, Mike B. Teglas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Wild rodent reservoir host species were surveyed prospectively for infection with Borrelia hermsii, the causative agent of tick-borne relapsing fever in the western United States. Trapping occurred during the summer of 2009-2012 at field sites surrounding Big Bear Lake, CA, a region where human infection has been reported for many years. Using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), we tested 207 rodents from 11 species and found chipmunks (Tamias spp.) and a woodrat (Neotoma macrotis) infected. Chipmunks represented the majority of captures at these sites. Sixteen of the 207 (7.7%; CI = 4.6-12.4) animals were qPCR-positive for Borrelia spp. associated with relapsing fever, and of those, we obtained bacterial DNA sequences from eight. The phylogram made from these sequences depict a clear association with B. hermsii genomic group I. In addition, we identified an infection with Borrelia coriaceae in a Tamias merriami, a potentially nonpathogenic member of the tick-borne relapsing fever group. Our findings support the hypothesis that chipmunk species play an important role in the maintenance of Borrelia species that cause tick-borne relapsing fever in the western United States, and therefore the risk of infection to people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1034
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Entomology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Borrelia hermsii
  • Ornithodoros spp.
  • Tamias spp.
  • chipmunk
  • endemic foci

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


Dive into the research topics of 'Relapsing fever group borrelia in southern California rodents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this